Food expenses are the biggest expense for most families after covering their rent or mortgage, and there are lots of possible reasons for this. How to save money on food is a big topic of conversation in most households.
In 2019 I spoke with Faith Archer, a personal finance journalist, about this topic and she shared with us some incredible tips for how to save money on food, but in 2021 I want to cover how our relationship with money and money narratives has a direct impact on how we spend on food.
Why do we overspend on food?
Faith tells us that there are a lot of reasons why we overspend on food.
- Waste is a big one; if we buy too much that we aren’t able to use each week or month. I think one figure I read was that the average family wastes £70 per month on food that goes to waste.
- Habit is another factor. There’s an element for many of us of doing the weekly shop almost on auto-pilot. We buy the same brands and cook the same meals without really thinking about it.
- There’s also the element of convenience. If you’re trying to juggle a family and working and other life pressures, often we can end up buying expensive convenience and perceived time-saving foods.
- Using food for purposes other than fuel. We want to nurture our families, so we can read about new fads and load our trolleys up with supposed super-foods that no one ends up wanting to eat. Then there’s the obvious treat or celebratory reasons, so we may find that we’re buying extra food outside if the remit of ‘does everyone have enough calories to thrive and survive’.
I would add to this that our relationship with money and our values also play a huge role in why we overspend on food. 90% of every decision that we make comes from our unconscious beliefs – things that we haven’t even really ever thought about.
Bringing some consciousness and curiosity to some of those beliefs can be so inspiring and transformational and can really help to get rid of some of those self-sabotaging beliefs that stop you from making healthy decisions and making good decisions around money.
If your subconscious belief is that you are not good at managing money, then your brain looks for ways to prove this belief. Couple this with the very conscious belief “We always overspend on food” and you have your self sabotaging cycle. The brain believes that you are not good at managing money, and you know that you have overspent on food in the past (even if it is the recent past). Therefore when you attempt to implement a classic food budget or spending plan, your brain reverts to the subconscious belief that you are not good at managing budgets or spending or plans.
This is why inevitably we found ourselves in a situation where we continue to overspend despite our best laid plans to reign in the cost of our food spend. “We always overspend on food” is your comfort zone, it’s what the brain knows to be true because it’s what it has always been told and it has ample evidence to prove it!
The first step in managing that food spend is to bring some awareness to the feeling behind it. In fact, it’s not until we do the mindset and relationship work around money that we can then move on to the practical steps. We manage the emotion and then we manage the money.
How to save money on: Our values
When we think of our values, we often think of the big overarching life values: kindness, freedom, health, family etc. But what we don’t do is link those values to our everyday lives.
For example, let’s consider ‘Jane’. Jane grew up with a modest background, there was always ‘enough’ for the essentials and the odd treat here and there. Food played a big part in Jane’s childhood experiences; dinner was a family event, and her dad always went to lots of effort to cook a wholesome and enjoyable meal for the whole family. They would often sit at the table for an hour, using the meal time to discuss their day and other topics. Jane remembers mealtimes fondly.
Today as an adult with her own children, Jane continues this tradition. Jane values family. But the behavioural result of this value is that the family food spend feels excessive and is a constant source of financial worry for her. But Jane also spends a lot on TV Subscription services – the household has 4 different TV subscription services totalling £75 per month.
When Jane sits down to think about her money beliefs, she realises that she values family far more than she values her TV subscription services. So she decides to cut 3 of them and keep the one which offers the most documentaries (because she also values knowledge) and redirects £55 to her food spend pot. Now, instead of spending all of her allocated money on food and then ‘overspending’, she has given herself permission to spend more in line with her values. She is spending more on food, but she no longer feels guilty or that she is overspending.
How to save money on food
The first step is awareness. Taking some time to bring some consciousness to your money beliefs.
The next step is exploring the benefits of the beliefs you have, and then the challenges that belief is bringing up for you. This is where we start to align our beliefs with our values.
Sometimes we can find it difficult to think of the benefits our beliefs have, but this step is important. For example, if the belief is that you are bad at managing a spending plan the benefit could be that this makes you do lots of research around spending plans, apps, and techniques to use. This then serves you as you may have a wider knowledge of what techniques and apps work best for you than someone who has not been driven to do this research.
The third and fourth steps are to re-write your money narrative, reshaping your subconscious beliefs and allowing you to think differently. Then we start to explore the future. What do I want to do, when will I do it, and how?
Finally we go back to our values and make sure that our re-written money narrative and beliefs aligns with our values. We go back to these values when we begin to look at the practical aspects of managing money.
The Money Circle
So often it is our unconscious beliefs about money that hold us back. The thought, beliefs and emotions we attach to money, or perhaps more importantly, to making money. These beliefs we have grown up with may not even be true. (Imagine that, things we learnt in our childhood that aren’t true!)
Is too much money a bad thing?
Is not enough money a bad thing?
Is it greedy to want more?
When we think about our approach to money we need to see the bigger picture, because:
When we fully understand our money journey from our past to our present, we can then truly start planning for our financial future with confidence, not trepidation, fear and anxiety.
But we cannot plan for our future without understanding and accepting our past and our present.
How these stages of our journeys have affected our mindset, and will continue to do so unless we challenge ourselves to confront our beliefs about money.
Inside The Money Circle family we provide the emotional support to make the behavioural changes needed to implement the practical steps.
- No longer feeling overwhelmed by the next money task ahead of you. Re-shaping and actually changing those inbuilt money blocks you have just accepted and never challenged over the years.
- Releasing the feelings of guilt, shame, judgement, of not being good enough.
- Losing the fear of the intimidating financial jargon that you have carefully avoided for your whole adult life!
- Learning how to manage your money so there is always enough left at the end of the month for fun stuff. (Without feeling guilty!)
- Releasing the feelings of guilt, shame, judgement, of not being good enough.
Hi I’m Catherine! My mission is to reduce financial anxiety and increase financial empowerment & resilience for 1 million women all around the world.
I am a self-confessed emotional spender turned savvy saver! From a young age, my relationship with money has always been fraught with difficulties.
Read my story here: Catherine’s Story
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